So much of the holiday season is tied to delicious food. Thanksgiving is more or less all about a traditional feast of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce. The December holidays are rife with their own food rituals, from decorative cookies to potato latkes. And while every family’s holiday meals might be a little different, we all share a sentimental commitment to the tasty treats that let us know that the most wonderful time of the year has officially arrived.

It’s important to indulge in these special dishes, but there can be more to the season than just sitting around a table eating. Here are a few ideas to shake up your holiday family rituals.

family going for a walk

1. Revisit old memories. Pull out the photo albums and home movies and cozy up with some blankets and loved ones to review them. Keep the hot chocolate — or hot toddies — flowing right along with the nostalgia.

2. Give back. Find a local animal shelter or soup kitchen that’s seeking volunteers this holiday season, then bring your fam together to be of service there. People in your community need more TLC than ever at this time of year. Coming together with your nearest and dearest to provide it will be meaningful to others and will help you build new, positive memories together.

3. Do a 5K. Lace up your sneakers and team up with your family to walk or run a 5K to benefit a cause you care about. It’s a healthy way to help raise awareness and funds… and after a little exercise, you’ll be that much more excited to tuck into that yummy holiday meal later on.

4. Make homemade decorations. Just because you already have holiday decorations in place doesn’t mean it’s too late to make more. You can also work together to stock up on decor for next year. Make this an annual part of your holiday routine, and you’ll never be short on cheer for your home.

5. Create a family bucket list. If the holiday season is the only time over the course of the year that you really get to spend quality time with your loved ones, you should make the most of it with meaningful conversation and planning for the future. Put pen to paper on some of the things you’d like to achieve together in the months ahead. Do you want to commit to seeing each other more often before the next holiday season? Are there awesome vacations you’d like to take together? Do you want to take a cooking class? Put it on the list!

6. Have a dance party. Crank those tunes — seasonal or not — and get funky with your dance moves. Who can you be totally silly with if not your family?

7. Take a local walking tour. You’ve probably come together as a family for years in the same place without ever really knowing much about where you are. Use your BFF Google to learn more about some of the landmarks and history of the area, then encourage everyone to check it out on foot. You may have to bundle up, but you can pick up hot drinks en route.

8. Share compliments. Go around the room and challenge each person to give a compliment to every other person. It’s a great way to express your love and gratitude in an intentional way.

9. Have an all-night movie marathon. Tell everyone to pack pajamas and a favorite DVD, then organize a pseudo slumber party for your loved ones. Build a blanket fort in the room with the biggest TV and settle in for the night. Let the youngest person in the family choose their movie first, then go in age order from there.

10. Start a family book club. Choose a book — or five — that everyone is on board to read before the next holiday gathering. A book club will help you stay engaged with each other even when you’re not together and will make for some really interesting conversation at the next celebration.

11. Help the host. If your whole family is gathered for the holidays, chances are that one or two family members have opened their home and maybe even subjected it to a mess for the sake of togetherness. As a group, commit to asking what chores might be most helpful for them, then work together to make them happen. Scrubbing the kitchen or cleaning the gutter is a lot faster and easier when done together. Plus, you’ll probably ensure an invitation back for next year.

Learn how to Light It Up with our tips and DIYs that create new spins on old traditions. We keep the best but tweak the rest so you can have a memorable experience that’s uniquely you.

What’s your favorite food-free holiday family tradition? Tweet us @BritandCo!

(Photo via Getty)